Early childhood teachers’ use of picturebooks to counter heteronormativity : children’s working theories about gender diversity and LGBTIQ-parented families. (2020)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Degree NameMaster of Education
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury
AuthorsMorgan, Kathryn Dawnshow all
This qualitative study acknowledges the pervasive social context of heteronormativity within early childhood education and society in general. It investigates how five early childhood teachers used picturebooks as a possible pedagogical tool to counteract heteronormativity in one kindergarten, with fourteen 3- and 4-year-old children. During the study the teachers shared gender- and family-focused picturebooks with a small group of children in weekly sessions. Teachers used the picturebooks during these sessions as a means to encourage discussion. Children had the opportunity to develop and refine their working theories in discussion with others.
Findings centred on children’s working theories in relation to gender diversity, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer-parented families, and teachers’ reactions to these. Children’s working theories largely focused on reinforcing binary gender signifiers, disrupting hegemonic ideas of fixed gender, and considering different family types. These working theories sometimes included topics perceieved by teachers as dangerous or risky such as the potential of a girl to “get a penis” if “becoming a boy.” Teachers typically reacted to these working theories by asking further questions and presenting new information to develop thinking; or minimising discussion and changing the subject. A key finding was the extent of teachers’ power to influence which children’s working theories are supported and which are silenced. Teachers emphasised the need for time to reflect on their dialogues with children in order to better respond. Sustained shared thinking was found to be particularly difficult to maintain when children’s working theories involved risky or dangerous topic focus.
This study concluded that professional development in the areas of sustained shared thinking, heteronormativity, gender diversity and family diversity would be beneficial for both pre- service and registered employed early childhood teachers because of the potential lack of confidence and skills in these areas. Such professional development could focus on increasing the knowledge bases of teachers, alongside skills acquisition around how to talk about these risky areas.